Fortune’s Fool (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Book 3) by Mercedes Lackey
Reading this book was rather like eating marshmallow: It’s sweet, fluffy, and kind of fun, but ultimately not that satisfying.
The series is composed of fairy tales for women (read: adult women who like romance and fantasy novels). In this particular tale, Katya, daughter of the Sea King and his personal spy, goes to neighboring kingdoms to ensure peace and positive results for the sea kingdom. Her potential man-candy, Sasha, is the seventh son of the King of Led Balarus, and serves as his kingdom’s lucky-wise-musical-fool.
It’s cute. The main characters reflect each other nicely, fall in love at first sight and have lots of sex before Katya’s spying lands her a cozy spot as the captive magic source of an evil Jinn, a sort of fire-spirit genie that doesn’t offer the handy three wishes deal. Sasha must then face a semi-evil witch spirit and turn down sex with a sex-pot earth-spirit before teaming up with two dragons, a wolf, a goat, and the Little Humpbacked Horse, Sergei, to save his One True Love.
The concept of the series is a little better than this particular novel. Lackey turns fairy tales upside down and inside out, manipulating or even breaking down conventional stories into quaint, fun love stories. The first novel in the series, The Fairy Godmother, is the strongest book by far, dealing with Fairy Godmothers and ‘the Tradition’; I never even finished the second novel, One Good Knight.
The books are published under Harlequin’s Luna brand, marketed for female readers who like fantasy and love stories — and sex. I would have liked to see this series written straight, without the deliberate, market-driven inclusion of steamy sex scenes and references to the main characters “secret places.” The concept is clever, and Lackey delves into stories we know and some that are foreign (Japanese, Russian) to create a rich, colorful, genuinely fun world.
In particular, her idea that this fairy-tale world is governed by the Tradition, the magical force that drives people into their proper roles and tales, is unique and entertaining. (It’s also a highly convenient deus ex machina when necessary.)
Fortune’s Fool provides some fun antics and interesting characters — the wolf-girl is my particular favorite — that combine into easy, light reading… Bottom line, it’s a girl meets boy, meets trouble, meets happily-ever-after romance. What’s not to enjoy?
Nevertheless, I maintain that it could have been better without the fluff. I give it a three out of five: read it on the beach or in the middle of midterms, and don’t expect too much.
P.S. Even if you don’t read any books in this series, pick one up and look at it in the bookstore: the covers are gorgeous.